The film “Water” is a film that can be enjoyed not only for its story and its filming, but also for use in cross-cultural and psychological studies. Through the use of Bronfenbenner’s Ecological Theory of Development a greater understanding and appreciation of the story is possible. It can also help us to garner a better understanding of the changes that India was going through during their late colonial period under Great Britain.
The film Water is set during the late 1930’s in India. India at the time was a colonial possession of Great Britain and known as the crown jewel of the British Empire. The independence movement was underway in India led by Mohandas Gandhi who was organizing a number of nonviolent protests aimed at undermining colonial rule. Under British rule laws were made to change parts of Indian society including the abolition of the practice of suttee and infanticide, and allowing widows to remarry. But, in more rural and poor parts of India, traditional culture still reigned supreme and this was the world in which 8 year old Chuiyha lived in and was developed under.
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory of Development consists of a five part system consisting of microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chromosystem. The character Chuiyha’s psycho-social development was influenced clearly by chromosystem and microsystem. Chromosystem which refers to patterns and transitions and changing sociohistorical influences clearly had a development on young Chuiyha. Chuiyha was raised in a time between the transition of change from old India to British India to the modern independent India, and all of those affected her. Cultural traditions led to her being married at eight years of age and then being sent to an ashram when her older husband died since widows are traditionally supposed to be kept apart. She was at the same time exposed to the changes going on in society at the time through Kalyani and Narayan’s impending marriage, as people were rebelling against society’s standard that widows should not remarry and that they should be shunned. The specter of Mohandas Gandhi and his revolutionary work also hung as a specter throughout most of the film as one of the forces destined to have a major impact on Chuiyha’s life. This was also shown in the rebellious and questioning attitude of some of the characters in deciding whether they would follow the current status quo or challenge it for something more beneficial. Microsystem also played a huge part in Chuiyha’s social development. Her direct interaction with the people in her life played a huge role in how her life was turning out. Being married by her parents to an older man at age eight was bound to change the way how she viewed her parents. Chuiyha’s husband dying and her parents abandoning her even though she still felt her parents would come to get her would change her view of adults and possibly cause her to become a more cynical person. The influence of each of the widows also changed her life tremendously. The influences of Narayan, Shakuntala, and Madhumati were also change her life perhaps even more than the influences of her parents. Their influence led to her being used as a prostitute and going off after Mohandas Gandhi with a new name and new look on life. Being around the widows all day she gained an outlook into Indian society that most people could never have in their entire life and doing it an very young age.
The way how a person ends up depends on their situation, the times they are living in and the people they are living with. Such situations directly affect the development of young children and their world outlook. Cinema is a medium that can help us to appreciate this, and the film Water is an excellent work of cinema that can help us analyze such issues further.